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Crime News Family Crimes

Uncle, Girlfriend Charged With Murder Of Missing Woman Found Buried In Barn

Authorities have charged Lawrence Schanda and his girlfriend, Teresa Baumgartner, with the murder and cover-up of Jessi Wilfong, 20, whose body was found buried in a Missouri barn. 

By Jonathan Gringauz
Police handouts of Lawrence Schanda and Teresa Baumgartner

Two people have been charged with the murder of a Missouri woman whose body was found buried in a barn, authorities say.

The Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney's Office filed charges on July 1 against Lawrence Schanda, the victim's uncle, and his girlfriend, Teresa Baumgartner. They are each charged with first-degree murder, tampering with evidence in a felony investigation, and armed criminal action, according to court documents.

The search for Jessi Wilfong, 20 at the time of her disappearance, began after her mother reported her missing on May 25, Sherriff Ruth Ann Dickerson said in a press release.

As deputies investigated Wilfong's disappearance, they began to suspect foul play, the sheriff's office said.

Investigators found that Wilfong was last seen on the morning of May 20, at Schanda and Baumgartner's home in Millersville, Missouri. 

Investigators searched nearby, finding recently dug ground inside a barn, with the subsequent excavation revealing Wilfong's body on June 18, according to the sheriff's office.

The sheriff's office stated that they believe that Schanda and Baumgartner cooperated in causing Wilfong's death, as well as attempting to conceal her body. Authorities also noted that a June 20 autopsy indicated Wilfong's cause of death as a homicide.

Schanda was questioned on June 8, allegedly telling investigators that Wilfong had given information to police regarding his involvement in drug activity, reports Fox News.

A witness also told authorities that during a conversation with Baumgartner, she allegedly said that Schanda badly beat Wilfong the night she disappeared, according to KFVS, a local CBS affiliate.

This is not Schanda's first run-in with the law. In 2012, he pleaded guilty and was convicted of first-degree assault; he was sentenced to 10 years in prison, according to court documents. He was accused of stabbing a friend, then stealing a woman's car and fleeing the scene, according to KFVS.

The bonds for both Schanda and Baumgartner have been set at $5 million, according to court documents.